Give a hand to keep our beaches clean

About 1.5 million tons of debris dislodged by the March 2011 Japanese tsunami is currently floating through the Pacific Ocean and is expected to start washing up on Alaska coastlines soon.

Those who have been keeping an eye on the situation, such as the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies' Patrick Chandler, say that debris could, and likely has started washing up on Cook Inlet shores.

As Chandler pointed out, it is not a matter of if, rather a question of when and how much of that debris will land in our back yards.

With that in mind, we need to remember federal organizations such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, simply can't manage the clean up and mitigation by themselves. There just isn't enough money in the world to put a volunteer on each beach in Alaska, or anywhere else the debris might wash up.

So, that's where you come in.

We'd like to encourage residents to take it upon themselves to keep an eye toward the beaches this summer and report any suspicious debris they find through the proper methods.

It doesn't have to be hard. Instead of walking around your neighborhood after work, drive to the beach and go for a walk there.

If you find something that might be from the tsunami debris field, you should try to get its GPS coordinates, take lots of photos, type up a brief report and email those to NOAA at disasterdebris@noaa.org. Such information is important to catalogue.

Afterwards, if it's safe to, pick it up and properly dispose of it, or call the CACS at 235-6667 to get it in the right hands for a debris-centered art project being compiled.

If the debris is too big, looks hazardous, or contains human remains, call the Alaska State Troopers at 262-4453.

Although the debris can be a sad reminder of a tragedy, some good can be made from the situation we face -- added attention to our beaches, which are always in need of more cleaning.

As Chandler put it, debris is nothing new to Alaska's coastlines. Catcher beaches have been piling up with garbage, driftwood and other materials for decades. Tons and tons of trash likely line the Alaska coast, much of which will likely be there for a long time due to its remote location.

However, we can make a difference on the beaches in our backyard. While you are out this summer walking the beach in search of tsunami debris, bring a bag with you to nab other trash that might have washed up.

For that matter, we should all do the same when we're on our favorite river, lake, running or hiking path this summer.

Today being Earth Day, we'd also like to remind you to go out, get some fresh air and enjoy the Kenai Peninsula spring. Take a minute to admire the area's beauty and remember that we should strive to keep it that way. It's taken a lot of volunteer effort to keep trash from piling up along the areas we frequent. So take a minute and consider that and do what you can to pay it forward -- reduce, reuse and recycle.
 
In short: The tsunami debris washing up on our shores likely soon is a good reminder that we should pay a bit more attention to those areas, making sure they are clean for the continued health of the area. Whether you created the trash or not, it's now on our beaches and we share the responsibility to take care of it.

Where to report tsunami debris:
* Hazardous debris at sea: U.S. Coast Guard, Sector Anchorage — 271-6769
* Human remains — Alaska State Troopers, 262-4453
* Cultural items — NOAA, DisasterDebris@noaa.org
* Other debris — Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, 235-6667 or info@akcoastalstudies.org
* For more information, visit NOAA’s Marine Debris website at marinedebris.noaa.gov/info/japanfaqs.html
* Contact Patrick Chandler at patrick@akcoastalstudies.org for help organizing beach cleanup efforts.

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